Bill Jordan, an "AD" and Cooper's four rules

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by tipoc, May 17, 2017.

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  1. tipoc

    tipoc Member

    Mar 9, 2006
    In another thread a useful discussion about Jeff Cooper's 4 basic rules is taking place. A couple of posters have suggested that the 4 rules are good but mainly for new comers to shooting. Some others that they are too simple or too strict or not clear enough. I thought of posting this in that thread but it's useful enough for it's own thread. I think Cooper had not developed and promoted the 4 Rules at this time. To make incidents like that below is why he did so though. So...

    On Oct. 16, 1956 at the Regional Headquarters of the Border Patrol in Chula Vista, Ca. Border Patrol Agent Bill Jordan and another Agent were discussing guns. Jordan had been showing the other Agent something and had unloaded his weapon to do so. When done, Jordan routinely reloaded the gun and put it in a drawer. They continued the discussion and Jordan again took the gun from a drawer to demonstrate something to the other agent. Jordan pulled the trigger and a round went through the wall and struck Agent John A. Rector in the head killing him as he sat at a desk.

    Bill Jordan was an outstanding handgunner whose contributions made him a legend. Well experienced in handling weapons at the time of this fatal incident. In this case he, as was habit/routine, reloaded the weapon when he was done with the demonstration and placed it back in the drawer. His mind on the discussion, he assumed the weapon was still empty and did not check it. Rule one could have prevented this.

    Rule two was also violated. "Never point a weapon at something you are not willing to destroy". The rule stands out stark and clear in the mind. The gun was not pointed in a safe direction, where a bullet would do no damage if shot.

    Rule 4 advises us to "Be aware of your target and what's beyond it". Jordan did not know what was on the other side of the wall.

    In the above situation we could have forgotten rule One and followed the other two and been safe. Even just one of the other two. No one would have been hurt. Following them may have alerted us to check the weapon. Had we checked the gun was empty, we could have violated the other two and been safe.

    Many folks who have an unintended discharge did so while cleaning or handling a gun they "know" is unloaded. They get distracted for a moment by a phone call, a bit of conversation, or something on TV, etc.


    "Hello I am here to tell you that the story of Bill Jordan accidentally shooting a fellow Border Patrol officer is true. That man was my father, John A. Rector.
    I was 13 years old and in the 8th grade, and that has been some 55 years ago, but my memory is very clear. According to the Coroner's inquest, this is the way it happened: Bill Jordan was showing a pistol, a 357 Magnum, to another man. They were in Bill's office at the headquarters of the San Diego Sector in San Ysidro, CA. The gun was unloaded initially, and Bill was demonstrating how he drew and fired. He then reloaded the gun and put it into a desk drawer.
    The conversation continued, and forgetting he had loaded the gun he took it out of the drawer, aimed it at the wall and fired. My father was sitting at his desk on the other side of that wall. The bullet went through the wall and hit him in the head. He died about 3 hours later. There was no wrongful death suit, or anything like that. Bill was so upset that he had to be taken home under sedation and the next day I remember he and his wife coming to our house, and he sobbed as he told us how sorry he was. He and my Dad were friends.
    I have often given my story as an example of how ANYONE can have an accident with a gun, no matter how expert you are with them.
    My Dad did not see me complete my education, he was not there to walk me down the aisle when I married, nor did he see me graduate from college. He never knew that I had a successful career. I don't hate Bill Jordan, nor bear him any ill will. I expect he is gone from this earth now too.
    I just wanted to set the record straight for those of you in this forum and elsewhere who think this might have been a false story."

    Go here to post number 34

    tark, boatdoc173, v35 and 2 others like this.
  2. Corpral_Agarn

    Corpral_Agarn Member

    Nov 14, 2012
    Northern CA
    Interesting read and a good reminder.

    There is no place for complacent mindset for anyone who works with potentially dangerous machinery.

    Tractors, large equipment, guns, etc must all be treated with the proper respect and safety must be checked and double checked.
    boatdoc173 and JR24 like this.
  3. RPZ

    RPZ Member

    Mar 7, 2017
    There was a similar incident during my military service that came out in a shift briefing where an armorer picked up a .38 revolver and shot his coworker in the face killing him. In that case the exact details were not revealed, but it had been classified as a negligent homicide.
  4. sakata8242

    sakata8242 Member

    Sep 2, 2010
    To me the "4 rules" are redundancies to each other, as the OP alluded to. For example, if you fail to clear and make safe, keeping the muzzle towards a safe direction and not touching the trigger may prevent a tragedy. Likewise, if you inadvertently sweep someone or something, but you have good trigger discipline and/or you have cleared the firearm immediately after picking it up, tragedy averted (despite the shame/embarassement of having a lapse in muzzle discipline).

    This is not to condone being lax with firearm safety, but a realization that as humans we make mistakes and a reminder that basic safety should be followed as best as we can. Basic firearm safety rules (the "4 rules") are there as a safety net but it only works if we make an effort to abide by all them. Breaking one or possibly even 2 rules likely will not end in a tragedy provided the others are still followed.

    Another benefit of the "4 rules" to me is simplicity. Having 4 rules to remember is much easier than the "10 commandments" you often see in a lot of firearms manuals. Especially for a beginner.

    I feel like many people take the "4 rules" too literally, which was one of the things people were griping about in the other thread. While it may be important for a beginner to initially follow them literally to ingrain safe handling habits, a little common sense is in order as well. Yes, it's impossible to "treat all guns as if they are always loaded", or "keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire" when basic maintenance requires us to "break" the rules. But again, those rules work in a redundant manner and should be a constant reminder to fall back upon if there is ever any question about the condition of a firearm, or if the firearm is being handled in an administrative or demonstrative fashion to minimize the chance of an embarrassing moment, or worse, a tragedy.

    As someone else already mentioned, the point of the rules is to remind everyone that firearms need to be treated and handled with appropriate respect.
  5. Frank Ettin

    Frank Ettin Moderator Staff Member

    Apr 29, 2006
    California - San Francisco Bay Area
    I've heard the story before, anecdotally, but this is the first time I've seen documentation backing it up. Thank you.

    This sad story is now a stark and documented example of how failure of attitude and mindset, i. e., a mistaken belief that the gun in your hand is not loaded, can have tragic consequences.
  6. 1911 guy

    1911 guy Member

    May 5, 2005
    Garrettsville, Oh.
    I have spent my entire adult life making a living with weapons and machines. Military and machine shops. Accidents sometimes happen. Your goal is to be professional enough, attentive enough and well trained enough that it isn't you that has the accident. I've seen complacency bite people in both environments. Was working with some Army (I was Navy) and apparently their SOP was to unload unless outside the wire. Our SOP was to only unload if you were giving up physical control. Minimizes unnecessary handling. Saw some stupid stuff done "because it's not loaded". Except our were.

    Everybody knows not to stick their fingers into moving machines, right? I've seen three people do it at my work. None of them were "oops, I slipped". All three were inattention and simply sticking their hand into two milling machines and a saw.

    Familiarity might not breed contempt, but it most certainly does breed complacency. You MUST actively resist complacency. That is the point of the four rules. What if Bill Jordan had checked the revolver upon retrieving it from the drawer? What if he had made a conscious decision to not point it at place on the wall directly opposite his friends desk? This woman would have had all those moments with her father, from high school graduation to marriage, if Jordan had thought about what was on the other side of that wall. Or simply demonstrated the draw technique but not pulling the trigger? But none of those things happened because "it wasn't loaded". That assumption cost a man his life.

    Yes, the rules are redundant. Yes, they are simple and no, they do not cover all situations completely. But when followed, they work. When ignored, I don't want to be in the near vicinity.
    bob40caliber and boatdoc173 like this.
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